How to Become a Corrections Officer

Corrections officers are employed within prisons, jails, and reformatory facilities at the local, state, or federal levels. Their main responsibility is to supervise individuals who have been arrested for committing crimes as they serve time in a facility or await trial. To effectively perform the job, corrections officers must enforce the rules of the facility and ensure that inmates remain peaceable. They may need to conduct searches throughout inmates’ cells, write reports on improper inmate behavior, and assist with rehabilitation programs. Most importantly, corrections officers must be objective and knowledgeable about all laws regarding the treatment of inmates.

Minimum Qualifications

At a minimum, corrections officers must have a high school diploma or GED. They must then receive formal training, after which they will be permitted to work within jails, prisons, and similar facilities. Corrections officers should be able to handle high amounts of stress, and should also be organized and professional at all times. The most successful corrections officers have experience working with people in high stress environments.

Education & Training

After earning a high school diploma or GED, corrections officer candidates must enroll in a training facility. There are private facilities, state facilities, and other academies that provide training programs for corrections officers. However, each facility must follow American Correctional Association guidelines. During these training programs, prospective correctional officers will learn how to supervise inmates, prevent fights, and handle sensitive situations. After completing the program, candidates can go on to fill entry-level positions as correctional officers.

While degrees for correctional officers are not required, earning a degree in a criminal justice field can help a advance their careers. Degreed individuals can gain supervisory duties and may even be promoted into senior corrections officer positions. Students can choose the degrees that interest them the most, and have the option of pursuing juvenile corrections officer degrees if they wish to work in those type of facilities.

Though certification is not required, individuals can earn certificates in a variety of areas, like conflict management, legal issues in corrections, and communications. Doing so will help corrections officers hone their skills and will also make them into more marketable employees.

Career Statistics

Correctional officers must undergo background checks and interviews during the hiring process to ensure that they will be able to handle the high-stress environment found within jails and prisons. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that correctional officers earn an average of $39,040 annually. The bottom 10% earns around $26,040 annually and the top 10% earns around $67,250. However, salary figures will vary by location and employer. Please note, the career is growing at a slower rate than the average, reports the BLS.

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